by Paul Ruben
Luna Park has opened at New York’s Coney Island. Operated by Central Amusement International and filled with Zamperla rides, it appears to be an instant success.
Seaside parks, and Luna is across the boardwalk from the Atlantic Ocean, do most of their business in the evening. Bathers come off the beach as the sun fades looking for more fun. I arrived at noon, on a Sunday in late June. Two hours later the park was rocking, the queue lines filling with visitors. For a shore park in the United States that’s unheard of.
“The weather is helping,” confided Luna’s general manager Fernando Velásquez. “We are meeting expectations within 2%.” I think he was being modest.
Luna Park is small, 3.16 acres (12,800 square metres), tightly filled with almost 20 Zamperla rides including the company’s first-ever Air Race. It’s a veritable showcase for the venerable Italian manufacturer. Air Race in particular will be of interest to other park operators looking for a fresh attraction, and Zamperla will surely be using the park as a “showroom” for customers in North America.
Luna Park pays homage to the historical significance of Coney Island, at one time ground zero for new amusement rides. From the crescent moon adorning the gates to the decorative parachute jump atop the Coney Tower to the Old Coney scenes on Lynn’s Trapeze to the grinning face on the Tickler cars, it speaks to the heyday of Coney Island. It also promises a new start to the area.
Although the park does not have all the essential rides for a new park, what it does not have can be found at one of the other adjacent venues. There is no dark ride, but Spookerama is nextdoor. I do miss the former Astroland’s dark ride, Dante’s Inferno, which I always liked more than the book. There’s no Ferris Wheel, but Deno’s Wonder Wheel overlooks the park. The legendary Coney Island Cyclone is across the street. Bumper cars? Next door. Luna Park is bright, clean and tempting, bringing visitors who also patronise the other nearby operators.
“It’s been a real boost having this beautiful park replace a series of empty lots and a very grim and poorly lighted arrangement of various carnival enterprises,” confirms Carol Hill Albert, operator of the Cyclone. “We’re happy to have it here.”
“The new Luna Park has had a positive effect on Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park,” adds Dennis Vourderis, Deno’s vice-president. “A rising tide raises all ships. It is a pleasure to have a neighbour who takes as much pride in their park and its operation as (brother) Steve and I do. So far this season we are breaking attendance records.”
It’s reassuring to hear a success story like Luna Park’s. It’s a win-win situation, good for Luna Park, good for neighbouring parks, good for customers, and good for the City of New York. With more attractions planned for next year, it can only get better.